What combination of fortuitous circumstances led to the opening of The Restaurant at Waterkloof?
In 2004, Paul Boutinot bought the farm Waterkloof. In 2008, he began construction of the three-tiered Waterkloof building – containing a state-of-the-art gravitational cellar, offices, warehousing and a large tasting lounge. During the building process in April 2009, Paul Boutinot reluctantly decided to incorporate a restaurant into part of the space that was allocated to the tasting lounge.
Why was he reluctant? His father owned a restaurant in Manchester in the late 1970s, where he worked as well. After leaving the restaurant industry to start his own wine distribution company in 1981, he vowed never to open or work in a restaurant again.
So, the question is this: Just how did Paul Boutinot and Gregory Czarnecki meet, and how did that meeting lead to the establishment of The Restaurant at Waterkloof?
PAUL BOUTINOT REFLECTS…
While busy with the construction of the Waterkloof building, why did you decide to incorporate a restaurant into the tasting lounge space in 2009?
We were a new, unknown winery off the “main wine route”. To raise our profile, having just a tasting room would not be enough. We needed to be a destination for both South Africans and international visitors.
How did you find out about Chef Gregory Czarnecki?
I asked Jean-Pierre Rossouw, whose judgement I respect, to give me a list of chefs who understood the fundamentals of cooking. Gregory was at the top of his list.
How did you know he was the right chef for Waterkloof?
He knew what he was doing. It was important for me to employ a chef who had classical cooking training experience.
What was your vision when planning the restaurant? What did you want to achieve?
It is a beautiful space in a beautiful position, so simple decor, elegant food and wine served correctly by nice people.
11 Years later, and after closing the restaurant for 6 months, what is your vision going forward?
As with our wine, keep trying harder.
GREGORY CZARNECKI REFLECTS…
You are originally from Burgundy, France. How did you come to be in South Africa?
I came to South Africa in 2008 to live with my wife to be, Michelle, who I met in Saldanha ten years earlier. We got married in February 2008 and settled in Somerset West.
Why did you accept the position at Waterkloof?
One Friday afternoon in April 2008 I got a phone call from Paul Boutinot. He said he was building a winery in Somerset West and had a spare space. He asked if I could meet him at the winery, as he was flying back to the UK the next day. We met and he showed me the space. He asked, “If this had to be a restaurant, what would you do with this space? If this was your business, how would you run it?” I told him my vision of a world-class fine dining restaurant, working with fresh, seasonal produce, simplistic décor and giving people an experience. Our vision was definitely aligned. He gave me a blank canvas and said, “Run this restaurant as if it were your own.” I loved the idea of starting from scratch and having to conceptualise everything.
What were your biggest challenges when creating/establishing the kitchen and restaurant?
The limited space to build a kitchen was the biggest challenge. The idea was to serve 60 people for lunch and 60 people for dinner, in a fine dining establishment. Therefore, the design needed to be practical and functional. I also only had 3 months to essentially build a whole restaurant from scratch – source furniture, crockery, glasses & linen, employ and train staff, design menus and, most importantly, ensure that the wines were showcased in the best possible way.
What were your highlights over the past 11 years?
Winning the Eat Out Awards Chef of the Year in 2016, as well as the Eat Out Awards Number 1 Restaurant of the Year in 2018. I don’t cook to win awards, but it is rewarding to see the evolution of starting from scratch and pushing boundaries, and to be recognised.
What is your vision going forward with the new opening on 18 September?
As before lockdown, to offer the complete experience for all the senses. With our new pairing menus, we will be serving unique wines from our Waterkloof vinoteque stock – which includes older vintages that has been cellared properly for the past 15 years. We want to submerge your senses in a world of fine dining luxury.
Along with adopting all the necessary hygiene and sanitation protocols, we have made some changes to our operating hours in order to abide by the curfew constraint. The Restaurant will be offering lunch and dinner between the following hours:
Lunch: Thursday – Sunday from 12h00 with the last sitting at 14h00
Dinner: Thursday – Saturday from 18h00 with the last sitting at 19h30
WE OFFER THE FOLLOWING MENU OPTIONS:
– Tasting 3-Course Menu: R 750.00 per person
(R 950.00 per person with wine pairing)
– Tasting 4-Course Menu: R 950.00 per person
(R 1200.00 per person with wine pairing)
– Degustation Menu*: R 1800.00 per person (7-course)
(R 2200.00 per person with wine pairing)
*Please note that orders for our Degustation Menu closes at 13h30 for lunch and 18h30 for dinner (whilst the curfew is still in place).